by Phantom

I've finally cracked out another gem... okay, rather like fool's gold. The premise came to me during a rather dull bus trip from Strasbourg to Dijon. I got to see the Grey Poupon store, but the story idea was the best that came out of the trip. Starscream lovers will probably flay me alive. Good thing Phantom's fireproof... I hope! Seriously, I'd like to know what people's reactions are to this. I know it's off the wall, but Starscream's behavior needed some kind of explanation. On an unrelated note (but everything's somehow related in the mash in my brain) I got to see Michael Crawford in concert, who knows very well what it is to be a Phantom. Now I really have to go out and see the play....


Setting: This fic takes place a short time after The Search for Alpha Trion (shame on you if you missed it!!), where several female Autobots, who have been presumed to be extinct, make a comeback, which leads to the question... whatever happened to the female Decepticons?

Disclaimer: Transformers are the property of Hasbro et. al. I don't own the rights, but it might be a good investment for the next Powerball winner. I wrote this because Optimus still refuses to come out of hiding after my last fic. My insanity plea is pending.

* * * * *

They're laughing at me again. I know it; I can hear it. Some try to hide it out of some sense of discomfort, others laugh outright, but I hear it all. Even when I shut down my audios, I hear it. I hear it when I'm all alone. I hear it in my dreams.

It hurts. I never let them see it, but their laughter is like a lance piercing my primary pump. It never should have been this way. I had a destiny. I hope that I still do. When did things go so wrong?

This cannot be! I will not allow it! I am Starscream the Mighty, not some cowering mechamouse that begs for crumbs of affection! One day they will see how it is, when I rule all; then they will look upon me with admiration and respect, and naturally a touch of fear. But that day is long in coming, for now I am merely the butt of jokes. Most say that Megatron only keeps me around for his amusement, and there is a bet going on how long he'll spare my life until he gets fed up and simply slags me.

I clench my hands into fists, trying to stop their trembling. I will not break down, I will not give into my submerged feelings of inferiority and worthlessness. Nothing is new here, their taunts have neither grown worse or abated. Then the change must be within me.

Curse those Autobot femmes, they're the cause of this! Before they resurfaced, at least I could pretend that my life had meaning, that I had made the right decision, the only possible decision. Now the simple fact that they exist has thrown my own into utter chaos. If only they truly had died out; if only they had stayed hidden forever; if only this whole cursed war had never even started! If only....

My optics fall, as always, on one of the few decorations that adorn my private quarters. The radiantly smiling femme always captures my attention, and my logical side knows that I should shred the photo and never look upon it again, but I just can't bring myself to do it. She is a part of my past, a glorious part that I will never be able to forget. A part of her still rests within me, no matter how hard I have tried to exorcise her.

I can almost hear her carefree laugh chime in my audios as I behold her still image, poised in mid-flight over the midnight blue sky, studded with stars, above our beloved planet Cybertron. She was a daredevil, a scientist with a wild streak who craved attention and speed. She was the best, and she knew it. But then the rumble of war began to approach, and less and less spectators showed up to watch her tricks. At first she was upset, but then she saw the silver lining within the dark, threatening cloud. This was what she had been waiting for, a chance to make a real difference, make a name for herself and raise Cybertron to the glory it deserved.

Those select few that had ever seen the inside of this room had been told that Starsinger was his twin sister, killed by the Autobots while the civil war was in its infancy, and that was the reason that he had joined the Decepticons, to avenge his sister's death. Well, there was a small grain of truth in his ocean of lies. Starsinger had been killed by the commencing war, but it had not been by enemy weaponfire. She had had high hopes of joining the Decepticon army, sure to be the winning side due to its proud warrior heritage. She would take her rightful place as an officer, fighting back the cowardly Autobots who scarcely deserved to draw energy from the then thriving planet to sustain their miserable existence. But then Megatron had lashed out at the femmes who had aspired to find glory under his command, swearing that no femme could ever prove herself worthy, and that he would personally slag all femmes that dared to wear the Decepticon symbol, fairly earned or not.

Starsinger, unlike most, understood Megatron's slightly twisted reasoning -- he faced enemies on every side, from within his ranks as well, and could not afford to surround himself with incompetents, or else he would lose his tenuous grip on power. But this decision proved to be counterproductive, as femmes began fleeing the planet in droves, many that had excellent combat and sabotage skills. Megatron had quickly seen his error and tried to amend it, but his conciliatory words, as close to an apology as he would come, was too little too late. The female Decepticon warriors had already lost their trust in him and refused to return, some banding together into a rogue unit to continue the glory of their tribe, others striking out on their own, and those females that had declined to flee had joined up with the Autobots in the interests of survival. Becoming Neutral would have been a living death. A handful of females had accepted Megatron's offer but were stuck in low-level positions until he could solidify his control as Decepticon leader and assure himself that the femmes would truly be an asset.

Starsinger had watched the femme's position deteriorate more and more each day and despaired of ever finding glory. But she soon learned of a top-secret procedure that would be the solution to her problem. This was the manner in which Starsinger died, destroyed not by lasers and mortars but by technology. She died so that I, Starscream, could live.

But my life wasn't the success I thought it would be. At first I could do no wrong, sailing up throughout the ranks to become second-in-command, Megatron's lieutenant. Then the niggling problems began to manifest themselves. The war had begun to sap available supplies, so my vocal unit had only been remodulated, not replaced, resulting in a strained, screechy tone that made many, including myself, wince. It's a wonder that nobody suspected, although there were a few questioning glances. If that had been all I could have managed easily, but it was just the least of my worries. I had to completely change my habits and mannerisms to conform more with male behavior, although I could never quite shake my distaste for grime, and I still take great pains with my appearance. I was not prepared for all the subtle differences in behavior between the sexes, especially the way that males approached friendship and camaraderie. I know I gave a few of them the wrong idea in the beginning. I attempted to begin a relationship with the handful of femmes that remained, but it just didn't feel right, and eventually I began to shun their presence entirely. It just hurt too much.

But the empty void was the worst part. Suddenly I felt as if I had not accomplished nearly enough, even though I held a highly coveted position and could not raise much higher. But something pushed me on, insisted that Starsinger's sacrifice deserved nothing but the best, and that I deserved to be leader. I tried so hard to push that voice out of my mind, but it grew louder and louder until it was all I could hear. My behavior became erratic, and I began to make an open bid for leadership. The first time I challenged him, Megatron laughed openly. That incensed me, and I swore to myself that one day I would have the power I craved. That was four million years ago, just before our fateful departure, and right now I am further from that goal than ever before. Some part of me was horrified at what I was doing, but the power-hungry part would not be denied, and my taunts became more and more daring. Many admired my courage until they saw that I lacked the firepower, and worse, the courage to back them up. I began to lose status in their eyes, which made me all the more desperate to win back their approval and acceptance.

Do I really want to be leader now? I am not sure. A small part of me still cries "yes" but a growing part of me is becoming disillusioned with such high aspirations. If I could win back some respect, perhaps this insane delusion will finally fade. Every time I challenge Megatron I think to myself, "Now! Now I will show them all, even if I don't defeat Megatron they will see the power that I wield, the aspirations, the potential." But then Megatron cuts me down at the knees, knocking me from my pedestal to face down in the dirt, so to speak. And the amazing thing is that I still live. I saw what he had done to traitors back on Cybertron, how they suffered to atone and beg for forgiveness, then were granted a merciful death, or else died slowly and agonizingly. Yet, while he mocks me continually banishes me from the base and his ranks, he always accepts me back into the fold and respects my skills both as a scientist and a warrior. Granted, our position has changed drastically since we raped our beloved planet with plenty of resources to plunder while praising its name to the heavens -- we have precious few warriors and Megatron cannot easily suffer the loss of his second-in-command -- but he could easily grind down my rebellious spirit into dust, reprogram me, or demote me. Yet he has done neither of these. Each time I survive intact from another confrontation, I ask myself why. Why does he allow things to continue? Soundwave certainly would make more sense as his right hand, but still I remain. Soundwave is unflaggingly loyal, yet the traitor remains, the worm poisoning the heart of the apple. Perhaps Soundwave lacks a certain spark, but he is very good at what he does, and he is a fearsome warrior despite his inscrutable exterior. Do I possess this spark? Is that why he hasn't reprogrammed or demoted me?

Our exchanges have almost become a challenging game between us. I have to admit, it is exhilarating to see how far I can push him, and no doubt it keeps him on his toes and hones his skills. Yet every time I fail to live up to a challenge, every time he brings me up short, he points out my error and how to do things correctly. Definitely not standard behavior for someone who is used to power coups and has survived as long as he has by sharp wits and an even sharper eye for backstabbers.

I must ask myself an even harder question -- why does my courage always fail me at the last moment? When leadership and power are within my grasp, why do I overextend my hand? And most importantly, when the tables are turned, why do I lose all self-respect and grovel? It is true that my survival is of the utmost concern to me, but I could ask for amnesty with a bit more backbone. Is there a part of me that does not wish to wrest power from Megatron? That cannot be, assassination has been the time-honored method of rising through the ranks for as long as I can remember. But why do I hold back at the last moment? At times I can almost imagine that Megatron is my mentor, preparing me to assume his place, even though I know that this is ridiculous, purely wishful thinking. Is this what stays my hand? Or is it something else? I've overheard much speculation from the others, and some of them are under the misguided assumption that I have feelings for our illustrious leader. As if I would ever allow that to happen. Great Cybertron, I pray that it never happens. For in my heart of hearts I know that I am still a femme and will always be. Still, I would rather take my own life than allow anything to happen between us. Megatron would not let me escape unscathed anyway, I am sure. Such a thing would only dishonor us both.

It is only now that I see the cruel irony of what I have become. After the Autobot femmes were discovered to be alive and disgustingly well, I promised myself that I would eliminate them all. This time my flaunting of Megatron's orders to only capture the femme commander was not a mere act of rebellion but was borne through my blinding need to eliminate the reminder of what I was. If Starsinger could not live, then neither would they. My savage glee at their demise shocked me deeply, as if their deaths could justify what had happened to me so long ago, that I indeed had made the right decision, that femmes were too weak for battle. In this way I blinded myself, allowing myself to underestimate the female mind, that which I had once understood so well. Even the death of Optimus Prime took a backseat to Alita One's suffering. I wanted to kill him first so that she could see how futile a relationship was during war, that it would only make one weak and vulnerable. I wanted to see the growing dawn of horror in her optics when she realized that I was stronger than her, I had escaped the prison of my feeble body and become so much more. In my recharge cycle I often ask myself, would I have really told her my secret before ending her life? If so, would it be to give her the knowledge that it was her femininity that killed her (she dared to flaunt her body in that syrupy sweet pink shade), or a catharsis of my own, the relief of finally confiding in someone, a fellow femme, even if it was a moment before her death and she could do nothing but take the knowledge to her grave.

How wrong I was. It took awhile to piece together the events, but now I think I understand. Ridiculous to think that I had fooled myself into thinking that the small pile of rapidly dissolving metal was Optimus -- once again deluding myself into thinking that I stood a chance at becoming leader, and even more foolish that I allowed myself to become distracted by the other Autobots that arrived, and later by my delusions of grandeur so that I forgot all about the femme leader and her sudden disappearance. She must have some kind of hidden device that made it possible for her to rescue Optimus with no one noticing. Such a device, judging from a scientific base, would have to consume massive amounts of energy and leave her nearly comatose and on the verge of death. And she was willing to sacrifice herself to save her mate. I have seen several noble sacrifices on the battlefield and many more dirty tricks, but somehow this act struck me much deeper. Alita and Optimus are much more than leaders in their own right, they are life mates who have managed to preserve their relationship through this entire war, including a prolonged separation of four million years. Not that either had a choice of other partners, since the femmes had stayed in hiding for all this time and no femmes had been involved in the Ark's crash, but their love had endured despite the conspirations of Fate.

So where does that leave me? What does Fate have in store for me? I am finding it harder and harder to get through each day with the knowledge that there are femmes out there who are completely functional and have managed to survive all this time through cunning and wits despite their comparatively weak bodies, and have somehow managed to preserve romantic relationships. This realization creeps around in my subconscious and occasionally leaps to the forefront of my mind, overwhelming me with sudden sadness and despair. I try to hide it the best I can, but the others see my change in mood all the same. Amazing that a handful are even concerned.

I have tried for nine million years to deny what I am, and I can do it no longer. I am what I am, and no amount of alterations short of wiping my personality program will change it. Half of me wants to storm back to Cybertron and eliminate every femme that lives, and the other half wants to go to them and beg them to help me, to find some way to reverse the process that made me what I am today. I had thought that my relatively weak femme-style body had been a prison. How wrong I was. It is now my masculine body that confines a female spirit. I know that any effort to revert to my own form would be sheer folly, for not only would it cause unimaginable problems within the command structure (unless I faked my death and lived far away from my comrades in arms, missing the glory that is the goal of every Decepticon), I know that the necessary parts are not available and would only be a waste of material in the eyes of the others. I am not sure if the technology even exists to reverse the process, or even if the original procedure has been documented. But I know that I must do something, or I'll simply go mad.

My life has reached a crucial point. Things can't go on like this; something has to give. Megatron might slag me or demote me; or (who knows?) maybe my desperate bids for leadership will finally succeed. After the discovery of the Autobot females, a few Decepticon femmes have contacted us and requested to rejoin, and there is no doubt in my mind that Megatron has already accepted. I admit this grudgingly, but he never makes the same mistake twice. He has quickly come to appreciate the Autobot femmes' skills and the fact that they had been stealing energy from the meticulous Shockwave for so long while escaping detection has impressed him to no end. And I'm sure that our version of the fleshlings' Don Juan wouldn't mind having company in his quarters again. Such a thought revolts me, that he would accept femmes for such a reason, but at least he has a sense of honor and only approaches willing femmes, unlike some others unworthy to wear the Decepticon brand. I have shown them the error of their ways with no room for argument, and my courage and strength did not fail me. Indeed, I had trouble stopping before I had killed them entirely. My female spirit lives on.

Things will most definitely be different around here with the arrival of the females. My greatest fear is that they will see through me with their formidable insight and intuition. Their very existence flies in the face of my sacrifice, and my ruse will be harder to sustain once they are accepted as full-fledged warriors that hold their own. The femmes could finish everything for me, or begin everything all over again. Perhaps Starsinger will soar again one day.

The End

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